Grand Floridian Resort Reimagining Report

Construction continues at Grand Floridian Resort, with more work to building exteriors and (presumably) interiors. In this post, we’ll share photos and thoughts on the impact to guests with stays here between now and 2023. We’ll also address rumors of reimagined rooms, restaurants, lobby, and more.

Right now, the only official announcement from Walt Disney World is that Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is undergoing refurbishment. Guests will be able to see and hear construction during daytime hours. Most Resort hotel amenities will remain available. Please allow for additional travel time.

This started back in March, and the assumption at the time was that notice the project pertained to the Disney Vacation Club overhaul of the Big Pine Key building of hotel rooms at Walt Disney World’s flagship resort. This building reopened over the summer and the new rooms have debuted–see Grand New Rooms at Walt Disney World’s Flagship Resort for a look inside. However, work has continued.

Following the completion of the construction on Big Pine Key, crews moved over to the Boca Chica building.

This is the large hotel building parallel to the Courtyard Pool and Seven Seas Lagoon shoreline, directly facing Magic Kingdom. The resort’s feature pool is directly between Boca Chica and the main lobby, and the new DVC Resort Studios with a Standard View in Big Pine Key are directly adjacent to Boca Chica.

Most of Boca Chica is covered by scaffolding, with construction walls erected around the perimeter of the building.

In watching construction, it’s pretty obvious that a few things are occurring. The roof is being replaced in sections; this is overdue and makes a night and day difference. Additionally, there’s repainting and repairs to the building and its lattice work.

Finally, the stairwells are being rebuilt.

This also occurred with Big Pine Key, and the results are relatively underwhelming–the new stairwells have an almost temporary feel. We always use these stairwells instead of elevators, and the old ones didn’t have any visible issues.

Of course, that doesn’t mean they didn’t need to be replaced for whatever reason. I’m no construction expert and I highly doubt Disney would’ve undertaken this (at best) lateral if it was unnecessary. (On that note, I would love to hear from someone who is a construction expert and might understand the why of this.)

Thus far, nothing else has been officially announced or revealed with regard to the interiors of the buildings.

However, it’s pretty obvious that remodeling is occurring. During a recent stay in the new Disney Vacation Club rooms at the Grand Floridian, we inquired about this at the resort, and were told that the hotel side is getting the same rooms as the DVC side.

Normally, we’d take these word of mouth reports with a grain of salt as on-the-ground rumors aren’t exactly the most credible.

In this case, we also saw a staging area set up while using the walkway to Magic Kingdom (no photos because, even though it’s in guest view, it’s technically backstage–I’m not breaking any rules for a construction update). There were also carts zooming around throughout the day, and a couple carried large boxes marked “Ethan Allen.” I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen roofing materials at our local Ethan Allen store.

Here are a few more photos to give you an idea of what the construction is like:

We stayed in the Big Pine Key building, in a room directly facing the construction where work was actively occurring throughout our stay. Sitting on the balcony, I could see welding on the stairwell, which was oddly transfixing. I wouldn’t necessarily call that an “enhancement” but I did prefer it to the alternative of looking at the pool. That’s just me, though.

Otherwise, there wasn’t much of a construction impact. So long as this work continues building by building–and I assume that’s the plan–the Grand Floridian doesn’t feel or sound like a construction zone. Sure, there are construction workers coming and going (particularly along the path leading past Gasparilla Island Grill), but there are always maintenance workers, landscaping, housekeeping, etc. That’s par for the course, and necessary to service the hotel and keep the grounds looking nice.

There are times when I’ve felt like there’s too much noise or visual blight due to hotel construction at Walt Disney World. That’s not my take here; I would not hesitate to book another stay at the Grand Floridian during this project. (Well, I would since we’re out of points for the year, but that has nothing to do with construction!)

As always, your mileage may vary. If you’ll be spending a lot of time in the room during daytime hours or are sensitive to noise, consider making a room request away from wherever the work is occurring during your vacation.

Anyway, it seems like an open secret that the Grand Floridian is replacing its standard hotel rooms (pictured above) with something in the style of the resort studios.

We are incredibly pleased by this news (or rumor, depending upon how you look at it). For years, we’ve been complaining that the rooms are not commensurate with the prices. I’d go as far as to say that the Grand Floridian regular guest rooms are among the dullest at Walt Disney World. You’d be hard-pressed to distinguish them from a mid-range Hilton or Marriott.

Above is a look at the Resort Studio.

To me, it’s a night and day difference–easily the biggest before/after improvement of any hotel room at Walt Disney World in the last decade. This reimagining brought with it greater usability, attention to details, luxurious finishings, thematic flourishes, and a range of other details. Whether you’re assessing from a function or form perspective, these are a marked improvement.

I’d go a step further than that, and say the Resort Studios are the best rooms from an objective perspective–or at least in contention for that. I personally prefer a handful of other rooms, but there’s no denying the quality of these.

It makes complete sense that Walt Disney World is replicating this style on the hotel side of Grand Floridian, as the team behind these rooms absolutely crushed it. This will be a huge improvement, with guests no longer questioning (to the same degree) how this room cost $800 or more.

Additionally, Narcoossee’s–the waterfront restaurant at Grand Floridian–is now closed. Narcoossee’s is expected to reopen in 2023 as an enhanced dining experience. In the meantime, Citricos is now open seven days a week.

Specifics of this reimagining also have not been officially announced, but the length of the project alone suggests we’re going to see significant changes. Probably greater in scope than the largely-cosmetic updates at Citricos, and potentially entailing layout changes to the dining room and kitchen. While we loved the ambiance and style of Narcoossee’s, we’re willing to withhold judgment as the Citricos reimagining turned out nicely. (Although I think there was less downside risk there; Citricos needed a new look, Narcoossee’s does not.)

Beyond this, it’s rumored that Grand Floridian will receive a substantial overhaul in 2022 or 2023 with “Enchanted Gardens” as the unifying visual style. (That’s the term used by the Disney Files magazine for DVC members. I haven’t seen “Enchanted Gardens” used anywhere else when describing the reimagining, but there’s presumably a basis for it somewhere.)

This could encompass the lobby, restaurants, and other amenities. An overhaul of the lobby seems like an inevitability at this point. Although I don’t think that’s necessary (do the Grand Canyon Concourse in the Contemporary first!), I do think this style could be used as the basis for a refresh.

That’s probably going to get me excoriated among Walt Disney World purists. As a realist, I think this style is pretty much the best-case scenario when accounting for tastes of modern guests and the price point of the Grand Floridian. While WDW diehards might love the lobby and overall aesthetic, I’d hazard a guess that the hotel does not comport with the expectations of the first-timers or casual guests who actually book it.

With that said, my hope is that Imagineering can marry the visual style of the new rooms with the opulence and grandiosity of the main lobby. It should not become an Ethan Allen showroom, but with a higher ceiling. Modernized doesn’t need to mean dull and devoid of character. There is a way to have the best of both worlds, a lobby that’s both well-themed and luxurious. It’s a tough balance to strike, but hopefully it can be accomplished, if that’s what Walt Disney World opts to do.

If Walt Disney World does opt to overhaul the lobby of the Grand Floridian, one thing is certain: we must protect the masterpiece monkey and bunny paintings at all costs.

I’m not one for petitions, but if someone were to start one to get these puppies added to some historic register of culturally significant works of art, I’d sign it. Perhaps the Grand Floridian should even be added to the National Register of Historic Places as home to these priceless treasures. They’re arguably why it’s called the Grand, and is the flagship resort at Walt Disney World.

Ultimately, we’re very pleased that it appears the Grand Floridian is finally getting guest rooms that are worthy of Walt Disney World’s flagship resort. It’s not totally clear why Walt Disney World hasn’t announced this year–perhaps a big reveal is happening at the D23 Expo that will tie everything together with details about a new lobby, restaurants, and rooms? (Update: there was no big reveal.)

Regardless, it’s a near-certainty that the guest rooms on the hotel side are being reimagined in a style that’s identical or very similar to the resort studios that just debuted in the new Big Pine Key DVC building. Given the pace of construction thus far and the fact that this is occurring on a building-by-building basis, it’s likely that this project will last well into 2023.

In the end, that was the purpose of this post–to give you a heads up about ongoing construction at the Grand Floridian in case you have a stay booked this fall, Christmas, or even in 2023. Hopefully the photos and commentary give you an idea of what to expect. While I don’t plan on making standalone Grand Floridian construction updates a regular thing, you can follow our Walt Disney World Resort Refurbishment Tracker for future updates.

We’re cautiously optimistic about the end result. The Grand Floridian is arguably the most well-rounded Seven Seas Lagoon Resort, with fewer drawbacks than the Contemporary or Polynesian. The rooms are the most glaring weakness, and those will soon be resolved in an exceptional way. So long as common spaces and restaurants aren’t screwed up too much, the Grand Floridian will emerge from this as a better option than before, and a resort truly deserving of the flagship distinction.

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YOUR THOUGHTS

What do you think of the rooms at the Grand Floridian? What about the new DVC resort studio rooms v. existing hotel rooms? Are you a Grand Floridian fan? Excited for a potential overhaul to Walt Disney World’s flagship resort, or worried it’ll lose its personality and richly-themed spaces in the process? Have you stayed at the Grand Floridian since that glorious walkway debuted? Did you use it or the monorail? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Other thoughts or concerns? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

28 Responses to “Grand Floridian Resort Reimagining Report”
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